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Smithtown to require environmental study on composting proposal

Smithtown officials have proposed changing town code to

Smithtown officials have proposed changing town code to allowing industrical indoor composting. Credit: Raychel Brightman

Smithtown’s Town Council will require an environmental impact statement before voting on town code changes that would permit industrial-scale indoor processing of organic waste.  

The 5-0 council vote Sept. 3 followed guidance from Howard Barton III, the town’s assistant environmental protection director. Barton’s Aug. 30 memo to town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said “potential and reported adverse environmental impacts” including noise, odors, dust and water quality issues needed further study. 

The draft legislation is limited to indoor operations, whose impacts are easier to manage than for outdoor facilities, said Russ Barnett, the town’s top environmental and waste management official. It does not mandate a processing method. Those methods vary, including composting, in-container digestion by anaerobic bacteria and others.

“There is a way to regulate and license such facilities in such a way the town would have the ability to reduce the impact on the community or shut down such facilities if they don’t perform as promised,” Barnett said in an interview. To obtain a license, applicants would have to submit business, maintenance and engineering plans to the town, according to the draft.

Wehrheim has said he is committed to investigating local disposal options for thousands of tons of food scraps and yard trimmings that town residents and businesses generate each year. Local disposal options could help insulate the town from market swings and reduce transportation costs. Byproducts such as compost or methane can also help reduce costs.

The town now sends much of its solid waste to Covanta's Huntington Resource Recovery Facility in East Northport. It also pays about $1 million annually to send leaves to Babylon for composting.

At least one area businessman, Toby Carlson, who operates the outdoor recycling company Power Crush at a 64-acre site on Old Northport Road in Kings Park, has proposed building a processing facility if the proposed legislation passes.

He envisions a 200,000- to 300,000-square-foot indoor facility on 25 acres there to compost leaves, tree branches and other yard waste from Huntington and Smithtown. He has said he would invest $25 million to $50 million in the project. Linda Henninger, president of the civic association in Kings Park, said last year she was wary of such a project in an area whose residents already live near heavy industry such as the Covanta plant, which burns 750 tons of solid waste per day, generating up to 25 megawatts of renewable energy, according to its website.

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